For such a young product category, the wearable tech market is remarkably diverse. These devices cover a huge range of form factors, applications and prices, but they all have a few things in common: They're connected, they're small, and they're worn on the human body.
The bounty of wearables on display at this year's International CES seems to suggest a breakout year for the category. But Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association, says we're still very much in the "exploratory phase," with manufacturers simply throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks.
The most buzzed-about wearable tech at CES is probably augmented reality (AR) glasses. Google Glass is the most recognizable example, but iterations of the concept have been on the market for a few years.
Vuzix entered the AR sector in 2010 with its M100 Smart Glasses, while Epson (also an early leader in smart watches) has had a wearable AR display, the Moverio BT-100, on sale since 2011.
At a news conference Monday, Epson unveiled its latest AR glasses: the Moverio BT-200. Though graced with a sleek design and improved features, the BT-200 is not the mass-market gadget Google is trying to craft with Glass. Even so, it has real potential for use in design, gaming and engineering. The competitive price of $700 could attract early adopters when it's released in March.
Beyond Wrists & Faces
Wearables don't begin and end with watches and glasses. There are other ways tech can be worn and integrated with your digital devices. Perhaps the most unusual example is the Sensoria Fitness Socks, which track your vital signs through your feet.
Whereas fitness trackers typically keep tabs on you by monitoring your pulse, the Fitness Socks record podiatric data and, over time, learn the cadence, foot-landing habits and weight distribution of their owner. The list price of $150 is a lot to ask for a pair of socks, but if you're an avid runner, they could be an intriguing addition to the sock drawer.
Clearly, many of these products have a narrow, specialized lure, likely to appeal only to the earliest of early adopters. But it's important to recognize the wider trend: Wearable technology is finally beginning to merge with economic practicality and, more important, fashion.
Though it has captured plenty of headlines, the smart watch is still a nascent technology. Leader Pebble unveiled its brand-new Pebble Steel this week, which aims to blend the intelligence of the standard Pebble smart watch with the elegance of a traditional metal watchband. (continued...)
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